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Whale Sightings Through the Roof on Oregon Coast, Some Orcas

Published 09/24/2019 at 5:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Whale Sightings Through the Roof on Oregon Coast, Some Orcas

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(Oregon Coast) – Whale sightings along the coastline have shot through the roof, and it’s a trend that is likely to continue for at least a few days. (Photo above courtesy Seaside Aquarium: a gray beneath Neahkahnie Mountain at Manzanita, taken several years ago).

Orcas have been spotted again in recent days along the Oregon coast, this time up around Manzanita on September 21 and then again the following day. Since then, reports have stopped so it’s difficult to say if there will be more – or if they’re the transients which eat seals and whales, or the Washington whales that gobble on baitfish.

Meanwhile, a host of other gray whales have been spotted all over the coastline in the last few days. There are at least three major Facebook groups where members report whales, and two have lit up in recent days with sightings, especially on the central coast around Depoe Bay.

That area seems to be absolutely thick with grays, sometimes with extraordinary photos of close encounters while on a whale watch cruise. Depoe Bay and Newport have a few of these tours, and they greatly increase your chances of spotting the great cetaceans.

Much of the activity started on September 19, but Monday and today (Tuesday) are showing some remarkable reports, mostly out of the Depoe Bay area. There, the admin for Oregon Coast Whale Watchers group said Tuesday “There are no less than 9 gray whales at Rock Creek right now. All within less than 1000 feet of shore.” This report is marked 3:45 p.m.

Another few whales were seen cavorting around Netarts Bay on Tuesday, according to reports.

The Oregon coast has been seeing somewhat nicer weather than inland in recent days, even when places like Portland and Eugene were getting sizable amounts of rain. Better weather is always a major component in getting to see lots of whales, as they are simply more visible because of lower wave height, but also because they’ll come in closer chasing food while ocean conditions are calmer.

All this summer, the coastline has been seeing some extra large doses of whale activity and some much rarer-than-usual whale sightings, like a Minke whale. A growing “blob” offshore – a mass of warmer water – seems to be the culprit, bringing the whales’ food closer towards shore, and the whales follow.

In spite of slightly rough conditions out at sea – about 13-foot combined waves – and some small craft advisories, the whale activity around Depoe Bay has been stellar. With similar conditions continuing, it’s likely the whale sightings will as well.

Fun Facts

One interesting theory about killer whales hanging out in these waters is that the sardine population has been recovering from over fishing in the ‘30s. According to Oregon coast scientists, sardines come up through this region in what are nicknamed “bait balls,” where their numbers are so condensed they form a wall of fish, partially out of an instinct to protect their young. Staff at the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay said they can see them at times: they appear as a large, dark mass in the ocean.

When Orcas or other predators start swimming around them more closely it causes them to coalesce together. Then, the whales will simply start to swim through them with their mouths open, sucking down this wall of fish in a kind of underwater all-you-can-eat buffet. Oregon Coast Hotels for this event - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour




Orca photo above courtesy Edith Hitchings





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